.contact us |.about us
News > International News ... ...
Powell visits Iraq, praises progress
( 2003-09-15 10:10) (Agencies)

Secretary of State Colin Powell, becoming the highest ranking U.S. official to visit Iraq since the ouster of Saddam Hussein, said Sunday he is convinced "the winds of freedom are blowing" across the country but acknowledged the possibility that terrorists are trying to sabotage the process toward self-rule.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell, right, meets Saeed Hussein Al-Sadr, a senior Iraqi Shiite cleric before private talks in Baghdad Sunday Sept. 14, 2003. [AP]
Powell spent 12 hours in talks with the team of American officials guiding Iraq in the postwar period and with the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council.

He also attended a Baghdad City Council meeting, met with Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and joined the U.S. administrator for Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, at a joint news conference.

Powell described impressive moves toward self-government and seemed invigorated by what he heard as he made his rounds.

"There is vibrancy to this effort, a vibrancy that I attribute to the winds of freedom that are now blowing through this land," he said after the city council meeting.

Powell's day began with a flight from Kuwait aboard a C-130 cargo plane and ended with a dinner with a leading Baghdad-based Shiite cleric.

He said the United States is committed to having Iraqis run their government, but wants to cede power after a "deliberative process" rather than the early transfer advocated by some fellow members of the U.N. Security Council. France has pressed for seating a provisional government within a month.

"We are not hanging on for the sake of hanging on. We are hanging on because it's necessary to stay with this task until a new government has been created, a responsible government," Powell said at the news conference with Bremer.

"The worst thing that could happen is for us to push this process too quickly, before the capacity for governance is there and the basis for legitimacy is there, and see it fail."

Powell called attention to the appointment of an interim Iraqi Cabinet with 25 ministers, steps toward creation of an independent judiciary and general Arab acceptance of Zebari as a legitimate Iraqi representative even though Iraqi still lacks an authentic government.

"There is a sense of hope here even in this time of difficulty," Powell said. "Those who are so critical of the administration might want to hold their fire a bit."

Powell acknowledged that the security situation remains challenging, with a major new threat coming from "terrorists who are trying to infiltrate into the country for the purpose of disrupting this whole process."

The secretary gave a rough estimate of 100 such infiltrators and said he was confident that the U.S. military can handle the problem.

The attacks on American occupying forces, an almost daily occurrence in Iraq, continued when a roadside bomb hit a convoy in the city of Fallujah, killing a U.S. soldier and injuring three others, the military said.

Some 155 soldiers have died in Iraq since President Bush declared an end to major combat on May 1. During the heavy fighting before that date, 138 soldiers died.

"This security threat comes from those who do not want to see (deposed President) Saddam Hussein go and those who want to foment trouble here, terrorists who are coming in, as well as remnants of the old regime," Powell told "Fox News Sunday" in Washington.

He said military commanders told him they are confident they can handle both threats, though it will take time.

Almost nine in 10 Americans, in an ABC-Washington Post poll released Sunday, said they were concerned that the United States is going to get bogged down in a long and costly peacekeeping mission in Iraq.

In Washington, Vice President Dick Cheney hinted that the administration would seek more money next year than the additional $87 billion already requested to pay mainly for postwar costs in Iraq. He also said the administration does not know when the U.S. military presence in Iraq will end.

About 116,000 American troops are deployed in Iraq. While some U.S. lawmakers have urged the administration to increase that number and persuade other countries to commit troops, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld took issue with critics who say the mission has become a quagmire.

"We've been there 4 1/2 months since the end of major military combat. Four-and-a-half months is not bogged down, in my view," he told CBS' "Face the Nation."

Last week, U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, made a comparison to Vietnam. That prompted a blunt response from Powell:

"We ought to stop with these rather bizarre historical allusions back to something that happened 25, 30 years ago," Powell said on CNN's "Late Edition."

He asserted that "there is political life returning here on a democratic basis. The Iraqi people are being presented a future so totally different from the horrible past from which they've just come out."

Bremer has said a new government could be in place as early as the end of 2004. But the Iraqi chairman of a committee studying the constitutional process said Sunday that it could take as long as two years to write a new Iraqi constitution, hold a national referendum on it and conduct national elections.

On an unseasonably cool day, Powell was received warmly at the Baghdad International Airport by dozens of U.S. soldiers.

He posed with some for photographs. The former general, whose last military job was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, looked very much at home with the sergeants and corporals who surrounded him.

Powell then flew to Baghdad by helicopter, avoiding the drive along an airport road that has been the scene of occasional sniper attacks.

Zebari, who took office just a week ago, acknowledged that the security environment will influence the pace of progress toward Iraqi self-rule. He expressed hope that by mid-2004, Iraq will have "an elected legitimate government."

Details about the length of Powell's stay in Iraq and his remaining activities were closely held by U.S. officials. He was expected to visit locations associated with rights abuses under Saddam's rule.

Rumsfeld, on a recent visit to Iraq, went to a mass grave site.

  Today's Top News   Top International News
+No grounds to revalue yuan, experts declare
( 2003-09-15)
+US$33 billion in foreign funds attracted
( 2003-09-15)
+WTO trade talks collapse in Mexico
( 2003-09-15)
+Experts: SARS may re-emerge
( 2003-09-15)
+University student stabs eight schoolmates
( 2003-09-15)
+Colombian rebels kidnap 8 tourists in 'Lost City'
( 2003-09-15)
+Report: Lindh murder knife to be analyzed in UK

( 2003-09-15)
+Powell visits Iraq, praises progress
( 2003-09-15)
+Arab rulers leery of new Iraq role model
( 2003-09-15)
+US rejects Israeli threats against Arafat
( 2003-09-15)
  Go to Another Section  
  Article Tools  
  Related Articles  

+US apology doesn't appease angry Iraqis

+Blast destroys US military car, wounds soldier

+White House: Don't expect help in Iraq

+2 GIs hurt; Forces raid Saddam loyalists

+Allies slow on Bush call for Iraq funds

+US troops arrest four in Iraq raid

+Bush seeks $87 billion for Iraq reconstruction

+Talks underway on Iraq resolution; changes expected

+UN reaction to US Iraq proposal varies

+France, Germany reject US draft on Iraq

+Polish-led force to oversee part of Iraq

+US repels attack, seizes bomb suspects in Tikrit

+Annual Iraq occupation cost may hit $29B

+US can't sell resolution on Iraq

+US makes opening move on forces in Iraq

+Bush vows no retreat over Iraq, US soldier killed

+US launches raids to hunt Iraq bandits

        .contact us |.about us
  Copyright By chinadaily.com.cn. All rights reserved